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ALF Summer 2016 – Part 3 Half Baked

I was excited for week three because it meant getting back to working on Heartwood. I knew it also meant some vague network level stuff but I still can’t quite put that into words yet. I also knew it meant becoming a fully recognized, certified, and licensed Agile Learning Facilitator!

It was less than exciting that week 3 started off with what seemed like zero intention in general. To arrive on that Monday to the question “so what are we going to do today/this week?” was really disappointing. In my head I thought, “wait, you don’t know what we’re doing this week?” Naturally, I was irritated by this. Monday and Tuesday I felt as if I was wasting my time and the money of those who payed for me to be there. I resolved to just set all my own intentions and focus on getting some Hrtwd work done.

An aside.

I want to find the balance between being a researcher and strategic planner and being flexible and creatively adaptive. I use to do improv in elementary school and it was incredibly fun. Would love to get back into that.

Around me that week were a lot of network level conversations that felt exclusive and were over my head. Not participating deeply, I felt, only solidified whatever horrible reputation I had set for myself during week 1. I just wasn’t feeling included in a lot of things and guessed it was because I seemed closed off before.

There were some really great guest presenters that came on two afternoons to talk about Holacracy and then Nonviolent Communication. Some of the group had a certain perspective of or experience with NVC that turned a few of them off from wanting to attend but it turned out to be really good. The speaker was not at all formulaic about NVC and entertained out complicated questions on the matter. For me, I really must work on my own violent self talk first before I’m able to stop dealing with others violently. I’m not gentle with myself at all.

My first blog post was released early in the week and that seemed to get folks talking but I’m still unsure if that’s a good or bad thing yet. Maybe it’s neither. Maybe it just is.

There were a few people who really wanted to play games this week and I envied their ability and freedom to relax and just be. It was almost insulting to be asked to participate and more damaging when I had to turn down invites. I hardly ever get to “just be” and I certainly couldn’t do it this week, I HAD WORK TO DO!

As a part of getting stuff done, there were specific people I needed to speak to about specific things. Luckily, this is a group of generous, kind, and patient people. They tolerated all my questions and wordy conversations and I’m deeply appreciative. The one on one and small group moments were awesome. I was able to dig deep and get some great revelations about the things that had been on my mind.

  • Nancy and parent interactions
  • Liam’s youth and next steps in life
  • Heath and his TedTalk
  • Art about Mercer’s partnership/working team consulting
  • Bear and enrollment
  • Drew and coming to ATL
  • Tomis about marketing and the value of SEO
  • Jess and Trello usage

With all my working I neither had the time nor cared to make the time to go through the peer-review process. I was never baked into a true ALF. This doesn’t so much bother me since I wouldn’t have believed in the review anyway.

No one had seen what I can really do and no one had really seen me so it would have all seemed quite artificial.final form

 

By the end of the week I got a lot done and was quite proud of myself. Nari closed the week out with a killer gratitude circle that I can’t wait to do with my Atlanta group. I had a daunting ride back to Atlanta in order to attend our first joint initiative with the community center our school would be located in. I was eager, ready to facilitate, and optimistic about the future.

ALF Summer 2016 – Part 2 Trial, Error, & Multitasking

Week 2

This week was a whirlwind for me in a different way. I was nervous about how it’d go because I wasn’t really confident about facilitating and making offerings. I expressed my reluctance to offer something and desire to just float around and hang out with the kids to Sara and Nancy and was surprised to hear that it was totally okay and appropriate. Nancy highlighted something that I was feeling but couldn’t pinpoint and that was the week being a bit contrived given that normally you’d be in relationship with the kids. With that being said I was okay with just committing to a Spawn Point and regularly checking in with the kids from Heartwood.

I really enjoyed my Spawn Point and the mixed ageing there. It felt really familial, fun, and organic. Our approach to intention setting and reflection became more relaxed throughout the week and it seemed to really fit our group dynamic. One evening, on the spot, Bear asked if I could facilitate the closing. In the couple of minutes that we got settled I came up with something I thought was decently goofy and was surprised to see it humor everyone. Even more surprised that Lacy liked it so much she asked me to repeat it at the adult’s reflection circle. That was a good feeling.

The Set-The-Day meetings with everyone in one room started off a bit rowdy and the kids as a whole weren’t doing well at sitting down and staying quiet so the facilitator could do their thing. But by the end of the week, it had totally flipped. I thought that the culture of the meetings would need to be firmly established on Day 1 and was intrigued by how it improved over the week without very direct behavior management tactics. The meetings always went on, ignoring distracting behaviors, and that seemed to really communicate to everyone that they should get on board and that they weren’t the center of the universe. I did notice, as anyone would expect, the younger children have a threshold for how long they’re able to sit or roam calmly and quietly. In my spawn point Lacy engaged them with building blocks and it worked really well. They were fully into the blocks but also listening to the conversation enough to respond appropriately when it came time.

I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone’s facilitation style throughout the week. One thing I appreciate and am really working hard to embrace is the experimental nature of it all. It won’t ever be perfect and mistakes are inevitable. So often the facilitators didn’t really have a firm plan or agenda, which I think maybe helps them do it better. It’s a very “okay, we’re going to try this out” mentality. Accepting the fact that “this may not go well” better positions one to adapt and modify even while things are underway. That’s the Agility of it. Facilitators don’t really serve their own agenda, ego, or a desire to lead. They serve the community and drive the group towards its goal. That framework positions the group as a support for the facilitator. It’s in their best interest to make easy and enjoyable the role of facilitation because that person is doing the hard work of managing the whole group. It’s a really great system that the experienced ALFs have gotten great at explicitly talking about and improving.

Monday I free roamed throughout the camp and totally forgot that in another part of the building, ALF training stuff was still going on concurrently. It was an interesting setup where adults could flow from participating in the camp schedule to the ALF Summer training schedule. I’m still undecided on if I liked that and how effective of an approach it was. I can certainly say it brought an abundance of choice and a compounded FOMO (fear of missing out) that didn’t work for me and led to some poor (none) time management on my part. Tuesday I set the intention of getting some leftover Heartwood work done. It was hard trying to be present at the camp, present for ALF training, and get work done for my startup. Wednesday through Friday I tried to juggle all of that stuff throughout each day and did a piss poor job at it all. I felt drained and like a ghost all while having not been productive in any particular area.

Talked a lot about marketing with different folks and those sessions were all very useful. Jenn from Emerson relayed information from her consultation on social media techniques and her tactics from fairs and farmer’s markets. Talked about functional, and memorable marketing materials with Drew. Nancy and Lacy gave a great talk outside about their connection over everything approach.

Had a lovely conversation with Rebecka that unexpectedly almost made my eyes water a little. I’ll likely talk about it in detail in another post.

Overall, I see the Agile camp wasn’t as much for the kids as it was for the adults and ALFs in training. A great way to experience and practice the basics of each tool and facilitation. I did get a wealth of insight about that stuff but felt I dropped the ball on actually participating or getting some work done for my own ALC back in Atlanta.

ALF Summer 2016 – Part 1 “Ambivalent Anthony”

Prologue

There were three things that suggested that this experience would not quite be what I expected:

  1. Tomis’ lack of specificity when asked on google hangouts about what would happen in Charlotte
  2. Julia and Victoria’s report of their NY experience and the lack of a schedule
  3. A welcome packet with ZERO itinerary

My expectations? To learn all the tools of the Agile model in order to execute them with proficiency at Heartwood ALC. To learn all about (more than the starter kit already tells) legal structures, governance practices, parent-facilitator relationships, marketing strategies, facilitation strategies, fundraising ideas, and some tested & approved games and activities.

I very much approached this experience like any other conference or employee training I’ve attended with workshops, keynote speakers, breakout sessions, panel discussions, and networking lunches. That was a mistake! And to be clear, it’s not that I didn’t get what I wanted, it just didn’t come in the form I was expecting. It also came with a load of other stuff I wasn’t anticipating.

Week 1

On the first day I walked into a mad flurry of people buzzing about. I arrived to partake in breakfast but the room was so loud and crowded with unfamiliars that I couldn’t bear it. I’d have to go hungry until lunch. I sat waiting in the big meeting room where it was somewhat more quiet.

Eventually everyone moved into the room I was waiting in and the day’s events got underway. At center stage was this loud, smiling man with a manic energy pulsating off of him. I found it incredibly offensive in a disrupting my own sanity kind of way. He, along with some other experienced ALFs, facilitated many of the first few days activities. A lot of it was games and activities to get people to feel looser, present, and to initiate community connectivity. They were also things we could do with our own kids back at our own schools.

Unfortunately some of it was way pass excessive for me. There was so much emotional sharing and processing. So much “stare into their heart” and “clear out your chakra” hippie-dippie nonsense that my eyes couldn’t roll hard enough. The “let’s all connect and be intimate friends” activities were all so forced in the first few days that I couldn’t help but to dissociate. Luckily I thought to take in-the-moment notes on my phone that I would share daily with my co-facilitator who couldn’t attend the Charlotte training.

While I suffered annoying kumbaya moments I was picking up on some really great games and was seeing facilitation and Agile tools in action.

A brief tangent…

I really dislike yoga. Tried a class at the Y once, it was horrible. I also dislike large group meditation; I prefer to do it on my own. It’s hard to relax and get centered when someone keeps talking in their version of a calm & soothing voice.

At times there seemed to be a lack of good, clear leadership. Pair that with the lack of itinerary and I found it to be really upsetting. I’m not very familiar and much less comfortable with “we’re all equal players” environments. I didn’t always know what the instructions or operating procedures were.

There was one day that involved moving a large tree branch across the street. That was just horrible. I opted out. Seemed dangerous and unnecessary. Was super chaotic with everyone trying to play quarterback. You can see my affinity for the activity in the picture below.

alfsummer16-day01-tree-ready-1024x408

I’m the guy in the back, the black one. Speaking of which, there were so many white people and they’re all really super white. I am not unaware that this alternative education movement is predominantly Caucasian but intellectual understanding hardly ever adequately readies one for the feelings of that reality.

Someone did a session about adventure playgrounds and the one he started in New York. I was super glad I attended. It was separate from the main session designed for the new people. They talked about the meaning of the Agile… something. There was a similar structure of events the day prior and I wish I attended the session for the experienced ALFs then. Would have saved me from the 2 hour conversation about trust. But adventure playgrounds! I remember reading about them a few years ago and having a dream of starting one someday. They’re awesome and I can’t wait to start several in Atlanta!

The reflection & change-up meetings at the end of the day have been consistently annoying. So much excessive conversation and off topic comments being made. A tangent about where and when an end of day, opt in hugging circle would take place went on entirely too long. It really shouldn’t have ever happened if you ask me.

By Day 3 I had been individually checked on enough to know I wasn’t masking my unease well. My infamous silence was only making my presence louder. Each day I became increasingly fatigued due to the discomfort of the day. So many new people, too much forced socialization, a lot of underwhelming conversation, and a hardcore attempt to maintain composure. Paired with the poor sleep I was getting and it was all pretty stressful.

Still, I was learning a lot about games, facilitation, the tools, and how to embrace Agility. I was running late one morning and so decided to allow myself to be really late simply because I could without negative consequence.

Towards the end of the week I found myself engaged in some really interesting small group conversations with other ALFs and start-up groups about legal structures, coherence holding, and the Atlanta group’s Sudbury-to-ALC transition experience.

Went to a great session presented by the CHs for the younger programs both in Charlotte and in New York. They have some great insights for adapting Agile to young kids that I know my parents of 3 & 5 year old will really appreciate.

My Atlanta gang had a breakthrough conversation with The Tomis and Nancy about some unresolved tensions they were feeling from earlier in the year. Throughout the week Tomis & Art both talked about the ALF as Coherence Holder membrane structure. I was elated that this happened and had been waiting for the collective revelation.

Attended a really eye opening session on Kanban boards that helped me fully understand how deep the Agile flows. I’m learning that it’s important not to get caught up in any of the tools or any iteration thereof. Every tool and process can be modified at any moment based on personal and community needs. Kanban boards facilitate self awareness and other meta life skills that help a person to direct their own learning and development.

I’m really passionate about making sure the resources for acquiring basic literacy and arithmetic are available for my kids whenever they become interested in it. Nancy introduced me to some hands on equations that were a blast. It was puzzling because it made me conceptualize math in a way I didn’t learn but the activity itself was so fun. Math was always one of my strongest subjects and I can’t wait to share that in an exciting way.

The end of the day/week reflection circle on Friday got started with a somber tone and someone started crying.RandyJackson No

It was a hard pass for me so I decided to take a nap in another room.

Next week is the camp and the kids come. I am both nervous and excited…